The wonders seem never to cease.
Once again, I have a heap of thoughts I’ve got to put in print. They’ve accumulated faster than my ability to get them out, but I’ve got to because they’re in me, just stagnating and growing less timely.
I’m going to string them together in no particular order, letting my consciousness stream, so to speak. They’re going to vary from the personal to the local to the regional to the national, and there’s liable to be a few other tangents waiting to jut off.
I’m aspiring to the good, the bad and not just the ugly but also the beautiful.
Many of you know that for 20 years it was mostly my job to perform the impossible task of chasing race cars. It occurred to me last week that those 20 years coincided almost exactly with the rise and fall of NASCAR, and that makes me feel fortunate for the perspective it imparted.
In this year’s final race, and ever since NASCAR started running it with four finalists, winner-take-all, I’ve gotten madder and madder each year. It’s depressing that all the other drivers, many of whom have won races this year, just get out of the way and let the top four, who invariably finish 1-2-3-4, have their own private show.
Alex Bowman, who won a week earlier, may as well have been Roy Mayne, or Roy Tyner, or “Rapid Roy That Stock Car Boy” (Jim Croce song), at Phoenix. He was only useful to the extent he could, in small way, help teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. Bowman shouldn’t be singled out. It was the same elsewhere.
Once upon a time, stock car racers were the last of the rugged individualists. NASCAR has stolen their souls and lost its own.
To me, it’s point shaving. People who used to compare stock car racing to pro wrestling were wrong. Now they would be right if anyone still made such comparisons. The difference in pro wrestling now and NASCAR is that the wrestlers are better actors.
Dale Earnhardt, if outside the top four in points at the end, would have won that race just for spite. I’m satisfied Mark Martin would have ground his teeth at the suggestion that he take one for the team. Gosh, what I wouldn’t give for young Tony Stewart to be around now.
That having been angrily declared, the right guy won the championship. Kyle Larson is one of the great talents in motorsports history, and it’s refreshing to see it still matters.
OK. Got that off my chest. I don’t pay attention enough to write too much about NASCAR anymore.
One of several matters that left me wanting for time recently was Phil Kornblut’s appearance at the Laurens County Touchdown Club. Kornblut and I go way back. We first met when he was a student at USC and I was at Furman.
For many years, I talked on his show about NASCAR every Friday night. At times, I talked about NASCAR from under the grandstands as a high school football game I was covering was getting underway.
“Sorry for that background noise, Phil. Somebody in the football game -- I can narrow it down to Laurens or Greer -- just scored from a long away. What was the question again?”
A year ago, I told him I just didn’t follow NASCAR enough to feel authoritative about it anymore. Now that slot is filled by a longtime colleague of mine, Jeff Owens.
This year I’ve been calling Korblut’s sports scoreboard show after football games. One week -- I think it was at Silver Bluff -- I was on hold when I heard Doug Holliday report on the game. That’s when I learned I didn’t need to call when I was at a Raiders game.
Kornblut is known as an authority on recruiting, a subject in which I have little interest. He has a lot to do with its popularity on radio talk shows.
Years from now, fans will recall that Clinton High School set the school record for points in a playoff game against Palmetto last week. They will remember the score, 77-14. The trivia question will be who the quarterback was. Austin Copeland, the backup, though a reliable one, led the team because Davis Wilson was out with an ankle injury.
Clinton has the quickest scoring rushing team I’ve ever seen. It’s worthy of note that I have never seen Dutch Fork. The 2020 Laurens Academy team was that way, but 8-man football is prolific by nature, sort of like indoor soccer. It’s drag racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
I don’t know what’s wrong with Clemson. I have no theories. The Tigers are not as good. Other teams try hard, too. If Clemson wins out, a decent bowl game is a lovely parting gift.
Carolina clobbering Florida might be the most surprising outcome I’ve seen all year. (I was switching channels back and forth between the Tigers and Gamecocks.) About 75 percent of the time, I hope the underdog wins. That I’m often disappointed only makes the satisfaction greater when it happens.
Soon, when balls are bouncing, it won’t be a bad thing. When balls bounce on football fields, chaos often ensues. In basketball, it’s just dribbling. Caleb Gilbert and I have put a lot of effort lately into preparing for basketball season. The best portrait of this I can paint is that I have attended two women’s basketball exhibitions in the past week.
And enjoyed them.
Acknowledging that this may be deemed sexist and probably is, it’s also honest. The main difference between men’s and women’s basketball to me is that in the men’s game, I never find myself thinking the point guard’s cute.